Random Thoughts

A Strategic Plan for India

From the Indian standpoint, there are new signs of seismic shifts. Rice's statement for a regional power status for India and a willingness to supply Super-Hornets with transfer of technology and providing American civilian nuclear technology to deflect the Indian irritation at F-16 sales to Pakistan and prevent the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline to coerce Iran into abandoning its nuclear ambitions, though a pie in the sky, needs to be pursued and explored. The technology of the newest F-18s would go a long way to make India's indigenous LCA and MCA program feasible and give India the ability to manufacture its own fourth generation MRCAs, thus sparing foreign exchange, eliminating total foreign dependency and upgrading technological expertise. The proverbial unreliability of America as an ally, of which Pakistan has the bitter experience, should be weighed and co-operation with Russia for the development of fifth generation aircraft continued. The Swedish Grippen, French Mirage and Russian MiG 29 purchases fill the present need, but offer no overwhelming advantage. The Swedish planes are not as advanced and deserve no consideration. It would be better to negotiate with Dassault for the more advanced twin engine Rafele or local manufacture for the Russian MiG 35 and further co-operation for more advanced planes. In the meantime Rice's commitments reflect Bush views and should be used to allow the sales of the Israeli ABM Arrow system and a green light for more joint ventures with Israel. A wise step recently by Air-India was the large order to Boeing which is likely to lobby the American government for more such deals. A large order of 2000MW nuclear reactors from GE, Westinghouse or similar concerns would put America in a co-operative frame and put its verbal promises to a reality test. America has made its Ex-import Bank guarantee a five billion dollar loan to sell such reactors to China. These reactors should have captive seawater desalination plants to rectify the India's potable water scarcity. Osmotic diffusion and ion exchange technology for desalination are cheaper, but the combination of nuclear power generation and desalination could prove cost effective. These plants then should be located on the coast, as far away from Pakistan and a safe distance away from large civilian populations and vital defense installations for fear of a repeat Chernobyl.

An additional benefit of American collaboration is that Japan will follow its example. It has regressed to an infantile status unable to wean itself from its adopted mother and will do what America does. Its worries about a more belligerent China and the bottleneck of its oil supply in the Straits of Malacca and Straits of Hormuz, are an added incentive for it to improve relations with a stable democracy like India. This does not mean that India should not be friendly with Iran or increase confidence building measures with Pakistan. Manmohan Singh needs to be congratulated for making a clear statement that the borders cannot be redrawn in any significant way. Resettling this issue with Pakistan will be difficult. Thus we should help build the Iranian port of Chahr Bahar to neutralize Pakistani Gwadar and jointly finance the road from the Iranian port to Central Asia as a conduit for our trade with the Central Asian landlocked states. We should also jointly set up a LNG facility in Iran to permit bulk shipments of natural gas from Iran to replace the gas pipeline project and meet our energy needs. Pakistan will not thus have a knife at our gas jugular and will be denied the benefit of 700 million dollars income due to the obstinate foolishness of the policies of its own controlling ally, America. Burma pipeline through China or Bangladesh should be an accelerated project.

Finally, China while still a crucial ally, arms, missile and nuclear technology supplier of Pakistan and unlikely to abandon it, has realized that India is a growing power and must at least be neutralized, to prevent it from linking totally with America to complete the containing encirclement of American policies. Thus it is beginning to show more flexibility in the disputed border question and overly eager to increase trade to wean itself from its pathological dependence on exports to America and the resultant unhealthy accumulation of depreciating dollar assets that could be sequestered, confiscated or lost if a war occurs over Taiwan. The Chinese PLA has a doctrine of technological sabotage to combat the American superiority and is modernizing its armed forces at a furious space with massive increase in defense budgets. It has also signed up to be part of the European Galileo GPS and has collaboration with British universities in advanced electronic projects. American Neo-Cons are also beginning to see China as a potential adversary and the outlook in the Pentagon has begun to shift to a more negative tone. Thus the altered geopolitical scene is the reason that India is being wooed by the major players. They are playing their strings to charm, if not serenade India and we should return the favor to our own advantage in the world's new incarnation of Metternich's Europe. Even hyper-puissant America with its social and military Darwinist neo-cons are hedging their bets despite their intoxicating delusion of overwhelming military superiority and the amoral willingness to use it indiscriminately for economic supremacy and exploitation, masquerading as high principled spread of democracy and free trade.

India has no designs on its neighbors and wishes to live in peace within its current borders. It would be foolish for it to harbor ambitions to be a world power and match the current hegemon. It is important however, for it to be able to withstand the notorious bullying history of America, the inheritor of the mantle of Britain. Pakistan is proverbially manipulable and unstable. Its insecure status made it turn on a dime against its vicious child Taliban. It is the only potential base source to threaten India for a remote possibility of a hostile America. Thus it becomes imperative for India to be friendly and co-operative with America without sacrificing its own national interest. Our security lies in having a nuclear triad (land, air and more important sea). Thus the development of nuclear submarines with ICBMs should be a top priority. We need to have, if not the ability of air superiority against China and Pakistan, then at least enough offensive and defensive (radars, AWACS, MRCAs and SAMs) assets to prevent China or Pakistan from achieving air superiority. The lessons of Yugoslavia and the two Iraq wars by America have been thoroughly studied by China and it would be foolish of India not to be prepared for the contingency of this newest offensive strategy. Thus we need to improve our surveillance satellite capability along Pakistani and Chinese borders and have greater UAV numbers and sophistication. We do not wish a repeat of Kargil.

Keeping sea lanes of commerce open and projecting power requires a strong blue water navy as Admiral Mahan first surmised for America more than a century ago. The dominance of the seas by Athens, the Portuguese, Britain and America should teach us the value of being a naval power. We have no desire to project our power beyond the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Our navy needs two or preferably three aircraft carriers with support ships of Aegis type destroyers and hunter attack submarines like Akula or Scorpenes with capability of indigenous construction, and four squadrons of advanced P3C Orion equivalent planes for surveillance and anti-submarine warfare. We need more air and naval bases on the coastal areas of our eastern and western coastlines. The army needs sturdy armored personnel carriers, our own tanks, howitzers and ammunition. We need to stop buying everything from Israel, South Africa, Russia or other nations and emphasize collaborative manufacture of ammunition, night vision devices, radars, anti-tank and other missiles. Our land borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh need to be fenced, monitored with sensors and UAVs and adequately dotted with army concentrations with supportive air power from attack aircraft and helicopters. Our aging MiG 21 fleet could be used for ground attack and air support for our infantry and armored divisions, but we need a larger complement of attack helicopters like the Hind or Apache. Above all this must be done without neglecting our economy (a potentially fatal blunder of America). Thus we must rein in our budget deficits, improve our governance, root out corruption, modernize our agriculture and industry and redress the grievances of the poor and minorities and continue the growth of our middle class, the best medium for fostering a vibrant democracy.

Finally spending a billion or two for the Arrow or Patriot-2 ABMs is only a temporary reprieve. America which is spending hundreds of billion dollars has no hope of being immune from a Russian nuclear attack. The ABM technology is still unreliable and can be swamped by decoys and sheer numbers. Sooner or later, Pakistan will, and China already has too many nuclear tipped missiles to be countered by our ABMs. This is not to belittle the saving of even a single city, but ultimately peace and detente will have to be achieved by Mutually Assured Destruction, the basis of cold war detente between the Soviets and Americans. Another point is that we know that all politicians and especially Indian ones are thieves. Nevertheless, there needs to be a modicum of honor even amongst our thieves, to pursue their vendettas of Bofors, coffins, Denel etc. by investigating arms procurement scams without seriously hampering the essential modernization of our armed forces by placing moratoria on necessary advanced weaponry, until our slow moving bureaucracy has finished their investigation of all our corrupt leaders and their crooked deals. 


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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